Neighborhood establishes a new holiday tradition
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
South Park’s quarterly walkabouts have become popular social events for local residents, gaining broader notoriety with each passing event. The obvious intention of the walkabouts is to bring people together and help support the local businesses, and indeed they do.
Earlier this year, the South Park Business Group (SPBG) applied for a grant with the City to assist them with their marketing efforts to increase their visibility and attract an even greater number of shoppers and diners from around the county.
While the neighborhood’s holiday walkabout had always included hundreds of dollars’ worth of holiday lights installed along the South Park business corridor, this year as part of the grant proposal, they decided to kick things up a notch.
On Sunday, Dec. 1, the SPBG launched “Luminaria,” described by an organizer as a “season of holiday lights in historic South Park.” It is comprised of two specific special events—First Light and the Luminaria Holiday Walkabout—as well as a new tradition, a residential holiday lighting contest.
The inaugural First Light attracted hundreds of people, including Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins and Interim Mayor Todd Gloria both speaking at the event.
“Tonight we are celebrating the light and the artistry, the character and joy of the holiday season with our neighbors and friends here in South Park,” Gloria said. “And we welcome others from throughout San Diego to celebrate Luminaria with us throughout this December. It is my honor to join with you to be with you on this First Light event.”
SPBG vice president and South Bark Dog Wash co-owner Donna Walker acted as emcee for the evening, which also included songs from the McKinley Elementary School choir and awards for the holiday lighting contest.
“Witnessing people coming out of their homes and gathering together in the center of South Park filled my heart with love and brought on a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time,” Walker said.
The SPBG teamed with local artist Todd Williams to create the event’s intentional centerpiece—the South Park Luminaria Tree—which was unveiled and lit by Gloria at the intersection of Fern and Grape streets, considered to be the geographic center of the neighborhood.
Made from recycled wood and metal, the tree is “unique and quirky, like South Park,” Walker said.
One of the many reasons South Park is considered unique is because many of its businesses sit side by side with homes and apartment complexes, a factor that motivated organizers to get locals more directly involved.
“We wanted to encourage the residents to decorate their homes and doors so the lights of South Park would spread along the entire corridor from north to south,” a spokesperson for the SPBG said.
Area businesses then contributed items to be included in gift baskets for each of the winners and local realtors formed a committee of judges. Atkins announced the winners at First Light.
“From Kalmia Street on the north to Ash Street on the south … There are lots of wonderfully decorated homes for you to enjoy seeing, along with the Luminaria lights and the brightly decorated storefronts,” Atkins said before presenting the winners with their gift baskets.
Winners included: Best Door – the Nelson family at 1707 Fern St.; Most Original – Hortensia Juarez at 1920 Fern St.; and Best Overall – Laura at 1707 Fern St.
As with this year’s inaugural First Light, Luminaria will always kick-off on the first Sunday following Thanksgiving, while the annual holiday walkabout will still fall on the first Saturday of December each year. Organizers expect the holiday lights and garlands on residents and businesses along the corridor to stay in place for visitors to enjoy until after the first of the year.
The new revamped holiday walkabout is planned for Saturday, Dec. 7, from 6 – 10 p.m. This year’s attendees will be greeted by a myriad of shops along the corridor decked out in holiday cheer, each offering holiday-themed specials, music and refreshments. In addition, the Peace on Earth Carolers will be roving the streets in Victorian attire, the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra will performing at The Grove on Juniper Street, and a free trolley will be shuttling shoppers up and down the streets of the neighborhood.
Members of the SPBG said they hope Luminaria becomes a longstanding annual holiday tradition, not only for the neighborhood, but also as a destination for residents from all over San Diego County. There is already discussion to increase the footprint of the lighting contest and add a holiday “giving” component in future years as the program expands.
“We hope people are drawn to South Park to witness the brilliance and beauty of the lights and fall in love with it like we all did,” Walker said.
For more information, visit southparkscene.com.